Whelan issues new Philippe Coutinho 'criticism' after Aston Villa latest - 'he's a marked man'
Noel Whelan has insisted Aston Villa star Philippe Coutinho is a “marked man” after his omission from the latest Brazil squad.
The former Leeds striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, insisted the 30-year-old must now “rise to the challenge” and up his output for Villa in order to be restored to the side for the World Cup.
Coutinho was restored to the starting line-up and won the Man of the Match award as Aston Villa recorded a 1-0 win over Southampton on Friday (16 September).
His 84-minute display comes in the wake of his omission from the Brazil squad – with the Selecao set to face friendlies against Ghana and Tunisia later this month.
Coutinho is yet to score or assist for Aston Villa in eight appearances this term after signing permanently for the Midlands giants in the summer window.
The 69-cap ace could be in danger of missing out on a place in the Brazil side for this year’s World Cup – which kicks off in November.
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Whelan told Football Insider’s Ewan Kingsbury: “When you’ve got really talented footballers and they’re not firing or playing at the top level – there will be criticism.
“He’s been in the Premier League before, we know what he can do – and there are big responsibilities to produce every week.
“When you’re not hitting the levels, it can be difficult because you’re looked upon like you’re not contributing.
“There’s a lot of pressure on players like Coutinho. He’s a marked man because of the genius he can produce.
“He’s got to rise to this challenge now because that’s what good players do.
“That’s what Steven Gerrard’s looking for, someone who can change a game and influence a game – and he’s more than capable of that.”